Dealing with Change

Now I’m back at work full time its been difficult to find the time to write blog posts but when a change management communication was distributed at work, it resonated with me so much I just had to include it in the blog.

When it comes to change management it doesn’t get much bigger than a cancer diagnosis. I never for one moment imagined the impact it would have on me and how far reaching that would be either. I remember making plans for “when this is all over, lets…” but things didn’t work out that way as I hurtled through a distressing set of circumstances and corresponding range of emotions.

Apparently how we deal with a change depends on the type of people we are. I’m risk averse, I don’t like change either and I certainly don’t like things being out of my control. Not a great combination when it comes to cancer.

Some people thrive on the challenge of something new, others like myself, worry about it and can become very negative. If we feel valued and supported however during the period of change, we are more likely to adapt quickly and be more open to accept what needs to be done.

Theory suggests we go through a number of stages when faced with a big change:

  1. Shock
    The initial reaction can sometimes be shock as we fear the unknown. This stage is normally brief.
    This was back when I’d been for my scan and then had been called back immediately. Nothing had been confirmed but the radiographer simply said “This must have come as quite a shock”. What!? I thought, you haven’t told me anything! I then had to wait two weeks before the diagnosis was confirmed.
  2. Denial
    This is when we stay focused on the past and the way things used to be. Fearing the new we might continue to do things the way we always have.
    I didn’t feel any different and I certainly didn’t think what I had was terminal. It just felt like I had to go for an operation to have something mildly irritating removed, nothing more. I didn’t feel ill, didn’t think I looked ill, so how could anything really be wrong?
  3. Anger
    Denial turns to anger and we look for someone to blame for the change.
    I will probably remember this day for the rest of my life. One week post op, the results of the surgery were in. I was told that they had made a mistake and over treated me. My lymph nodes were healthy and didn’t need to be removed. My whole world caved in and I blamed the medical team for treating me like a number – someone on a conveyor belt, with no concern for the consequences of their actions.
  4. Depression
    Once we realise that change is going to happen we are at our lowest. The criticism we showed during the anger phase increases and we become fixated on the problems rather than the change.
    I slipped in to depression, turning up at the cancer centre and exclaiming “They’ve broken me, mentally!” It has taken quite a while to get through this stage and at times I slip back. I desperately wanted my old life back but thought that things could never be the same. I didn’t like “me” any more and I didn’t see how anyone else could. There were too many things that had changed, things that I had to give up or at least that’s what I thought. I was desperately trying not to drag others down with me and so would shut the world out and those I care about in a bid to save them from what was happening. I have to say that looking back on this now, although I had good intentions at heart and was convinced I was doing the right thing, it didn’t actually help me or anyone else.
  5. Acceptance
    We accept that change is happening and may even feel relief that things aren’t actually as bad as we thought.
    This is where I am right now, 6 months on, somewhere between accepting what has happened and trying to make changes to the way I live my life.
  6. Integration
    Change has taken place and we have learned to adapt and live with it.

Understanding these stages helps to identify the sort of support we need. No two people will go through the six stages at the same speed . Those that like change and see it as a challenge may go from stage 1-6 quicker than those who dislike change who can get stuck at stages 1-4 for a considerable amount of time.

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